Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wall St. Journal Nominates "Innovation" as Most Overused Word in 2012

Each year, we make predictions as to what may be the most overused phrase in 2012. In April, we nominated the word "pivot," used to indicate when a business (generally always a startup) changes its focus, its technology, its strategy, etc. to find a new business model.

Pivot is still getting a lot of ink (or, more accurately: pixels), and is being used in a lot of meetings we've been attending.

However, the Wall St. Journal has nominated another word as most overused word or phrase for 2012: Innovation. The article, "You Call That Innovation?" makes the case that "Companies Love to Say They Innovate, but the Term Has Begun to Lose Meaning." saying:
"Businesses throw around the term to show they're on the cutting edge of everything from technology and medicine to snacks and cosmetics. Companies are touting chief innovation officers, innovation teams, innovation strategies and even innovation days.
"But that doesn't mean the companies are actually doing any innovating. Instead they are using the word to convey monumental change when the progress they're describing is quite ordinary.
Even Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of the 1997 book, "The Innovator's Dilemma," thinks companies are overusing the term: "Most companies say they're innovative in the hope they can somehow con investors into thinking there is growth when there isn't."

The Journal has compiled good proof points to support its claim: 
  • "A search of annual and quarterly reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows companies mentioned some form of the word "innovation" 33,528 times last year, which was a 64% increase from five years before that."
  • "More than 250 books with "innovation" in the title have been published in the last three months, most of them dealing with business, according to a search of"
Check out the article "You Call That Innovation?"because it also includes more proof points about the overuse of "innovation." We've already advised clients to reduce their reliance on the word.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Entrepreneur Validates "Lean In" in Jargon of the Month

Back in January, we predicted that "lean-back/lean forward" might be one of the most overused phrases this year.  

As background, Lean-back activities are those in which users passively access content, like watching TV. Lean-forward activities are those in which the user is actively engaged in consuming content, as when they’re searching for content on the Internet or via an app. 

The May issue of Entrepreneur, not yet available online, validated that prediction with its "Jargon of the Month" for May: Lean In. Ok, so it's not lean-back, but, according to Entrepreneur, "Lean in" can be used to define "the act of making yourself appear engaged and interested when the person addressing you bores you to the point of exhaustion."

Not really so far off, actually. I'll give this a B in our end-of-year wrap up on how we did with our predictions.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New York Times Validates Cashless Wallet Prediction

Back in Feb., we issued the prediction that focus on mobile payments would increase, saying:
Spearheaded by Google Wallet, Visa's, and Verizon, 2012 looks to be a big year for mobile commerce. Using your smartphone to make purchases will not attract most Americans this year, but a growing part of the population will love the convenience of not having to find an ATM or not paying fees to use another bank system’s ATM. You can delay the day our society becomes a cashless one, but eventually going cash free will be mainstream by the end of the decade.
Last month, the Wall St. Journal article validated our prediction in an article entitled, "Retailers Join Payment Chase; Two Words: Digital Wallet—Wal-Mart and Target Join Project Aiming to Make Plastic." The big issues for adoption by retailers are potential security and privacy issues.

Yesterday, the New York Times validated our prediction, too, in an article entitled, "Many Competing Paths on the Road to the Phone Wallet." According to the Times, "The idea of using a smartphone as a wallet has been slow to catch on in the United States," and that "a big part of the problem has been that most stores do not have the proper physical equipment to allow customers to pay by tapping their phone."

That will change, the Times noted, due to "heavy pressure to upgrade their payment terminals to accept smart cards. Over the past few months, Visa, Discover and MasterCard have said that merchants that cannot accept these cards will be liable for any losses owing to fraud."

Check out the rest of the article for more details. But what that means is that the adoption trend for mobile payments will increase significantly.  Some analysts and industry players believe that mobile payments -- powered by near-field communications (a technology standard to connect devices like smartphones by bringing them into close proximity with other devices) -- will be mainstream in five years.

That's five years ahead of our prediction, but that's okay with us.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Natural" Causes Problems for Companies like P&G, J&J and Kelloggs

This week, we've seen two consumer companies get called out for misleading consumers about the ingredients in their products. 

Procter & Gamble was subject of calls to reformulate its Tide Free & Gentle (fragrance free) and Tide Original Scent because they included low levels of a 1,4 dioxane, a possible carcinogen. And Kashi was booted off the shelf of an organic food store because the owner found Kashi uses genetically engineered, non-organic ingredients.

Both companies issued non-apologies that stated they did not break laws of do anything wrong.

Legally, that seems to be correct. But both brands have a responsibility to their consumers that go above "not breaking the law" -- and that is to make sure their ingredients live up to its marketing.

This is more of a challenge in an age of social media, where this kind of information can spread quickly. Transparency when it comes to ingredients is important given the trend that public health advocates are looking at the formulations of products Americans use to see if the products are natural, if that's the claim, or might harm users.

Knowing that, companies like P&G, J&J and others should get out in front, start evaluating and reformulating their products. The fact is they're going to reformulate their products -- P&G did so with its Herbal Essences line last year and J&J is going through with its reformulation of Baby Shampoo despite initial response that it wouldn't do so.

The point is these companies should get ahead of the issue -- even highlight being proactive in weeding out problematic ingredients. But for some reason they're not doing so. They're risking controversy that they can avoid.  True, some consumer don't care, but committed "natural" consumers do care, and it makes no sense to alienate these consumers. And, to be clear, the alienation happens twice: once because of the ingredients and again because of non-apologies that don't address the consumers' concerns.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Atlantic Validates Our Prediction: Social Media May Make Us Lonelier

In this year's edition of our annual predictions of top media stories, one of our prediction was: "We may be immersed in social media, but we’ll spend less time with actual people."

Back in Jan., we wrote, "So many people use social media sites – from Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn, to and more -- that people have less time to spend with their friends and family. We’re not sure if this will get much media coverage..."

Well The Atlantic Monthly has validated our prediction in its May 2012 issue. It's article, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" makes the point that: "Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)—and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill." Written by Stephen Marche, a novelist who writes a monthly column for Esquire, the article reports on "what the epidemic of loneliness is doing to our souls and our society."

It's well worth reading.

And today's Boston Globe validated our prediction that "The desire to be connected 24/7 may change in 2012." Op-ed columnist Joanna Weiss wrote, "Giving screens -- and ago -- a week off," in favor of unplugging from 24/7 and a Screen Free-Week. Check that out, too.

Late-in-the-Day Update: Just got around to reading Jane E. Brody's column in today's Times.  She's a must-read health columnist, and her current column, "Making Progress Against Clutter," went beyond thinking of clutter as physical objects.  She spent about half the column talking about how much she enjoyed a recent trip to Antarctica because she and her two sons did not spend hours monitoring email and world news.  Instead,
We read books and missed not one excursion, lecture, vista or conversation with an interesting shipmate.
As I watched others buried in their iPads, laptops and smartphones, I wondered what people did on vacation before we had this plethora of electronic equipment keeping us “in touch” 24/7. Perhaps they telephoned now and then to see how the dog was faring.
Not knowing about problems back home or at work surely meant vacations were more relaxing, a real break from daily stress.
 Makes a pretty strong case for unplugging.